The opinions in this post are my own. I have researched for this post, but I am not being paid by anyone to write this. I am recommending based on my experience and research, but this decision is yours to make.
About 5 years ago, when my auntie Jenny would come over for dinner, she would either bring or request grass-fed beef, or free-range chicken, and organic vegetables. At the time, I scoffed, made fun, and even
tried failed to convince my mum to buy regular and just tell her it was organic (sorry Jen!). I could not believe we were paying significantly more money for meat….it all comes from the same place, what does it matter?!
It was only a few years ago, when I started to pay more attention to what I was putting into my body, that I realized just how wrong I was. I have completely changed my thinking, and I will never go back to purchasing the other options in the supermarket.
I think I am going to do a mini series on these types of foods; grass fed beef, free range chicken, organic vegetables. If I do it all in here, the post will be WAY too long. Today I just want to focus on red meat, primarily grass fed beef.
So what does “grass-fed” beef mean?
Here is the definition by the US Department of Agriculture:
Grass (Forage) Fed – Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass , forbs, browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources.
I have a few problems with this definition
- It is still a little confusing; it uses lots of words most of us have not heard of (and I removed quite a few), and this is not even all of the definition!
- It allows for some of the bigger companies to find loopholes around those words to claim their meat is grass-fed. This is becoming a trend now, as they are realizing how people are trying to purchase grass-fed meat, and as the awareness grows of how awful the conditions are for most cattle.
Simply put, grass-fed is the way it should be. It means that the animals are what they sound like…..what we all think of if someone says to you “cow”. I am sure most of us envision a large field with cows spread out, munching away at their grass, happy, until the time comes when their circle of life comes to an end (sorry to vegetarians, I put that in the most delicate way possible!).
However, most cows do not live this kind of life, and unfortunately almost all (if not all) meat in the grocery store is not going to be from a cow who has lived this life. Most cows are now “grain fed”. All cows start out their life on grass (for the first 6 months), but most cows spend most of their lives eating a concentrated mix of corn, soy, grains, and other supplements, plus hormones and antibiotics. This helps the cow to grow much bigger and quicker, so there is more meat…..so the companies can make more money! This is also called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, and you can read more about it, which I encourage you to do so.
Grass-fed cows continue their lives naturally within the fields they grew up in.
You might be wondering:
So what? Okay, yes that is a cruel way to look at it, but should I really be worried about a cows life that I am going to end up eating anyway?
That was my thinking before, and as much as I feel better about myself as a person now I know the cows I am consuming had a happy life, there are so many other benefits to eating grass-fed, and especially local meat.
I am very thankful that here in Kentucky, we are surrounded by beautiful green pastures with horses and cows all around so I can actually see the cows in the fields. I think this has really solidified it for me. We are making the right choice. Yes, we do have to pay extra for our meat, but you really can tell a difference in the taste. Most of the time we do not need to add seasoning, and the meat is tender and so flavorful, almost buttery that it makes the best meal you could ever make at home.
We have been fortunate to find Brookview Beef, a local farm that raises their own cattle, and I have puchrased various cuts of beef from Jenny and Douglas for over 6 months now. While we are living in Kentucky, I am not sure I will ever purchase from anyone else!
I am not saying that when I go to someone else’s house, or if I am at a restaurant that does not serve local, grass-fed beef that I will refuse to eat it. I will. Although now Steve and I do try to chose more of the restaurants that do serve it, as they are usually much better in quality, and they care about their customers, rather than just trying to get people in and out as quickly as possible like most chain restaurants.
If you need more reasons to eat grass-fed, here are a few of the nutritional advantages over grain fed:
- Better fat content
- Up to 5 times more Omega-3 than grain fed (lowers cholesterol and promotes heart health)
- Twice as much Conjugated Linoleic Acid as grain-fed beef. (helps reduce your body fat)
- More vitamins
- Contains carotenoid precursors to Vitamin A, such as beta-carotene.
- Vitamin E: This is an antioxidant that sits in your cell membranes and protects your cells
- Micronutrients: Grass-fed beef also contains more Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus and Sodium.
If you want even more nutritional benefits, check out Chris Kressers post on this.
If you are interested in making the switch (I hope you are!), look for a local farmer first. That way not only are you helping a small business with their livelihood, but you are going to get it straight from the source, rather than going through middlemen at the shops (and having your beef have traveled halfway across the country to get to you!).
Also, this way you know what you are getting. Like I mentioned earlier, many of the big companies are realizing how important this is becoming, and are finding loopholes, be careful of words like “natural” or “naturally raised”, you want 100% grass-fed beef. That is all.
If you are in the Lexington area, make sure you do check out Brookview Beef. I have not received any compensation or product to write this post, I just believe in them that much!
I am going to get off my soapbox now, but most people have no idea about the beef they are eating, and I hope I have at least planted a seed in your mind that maybe there is a better way of fueling your body (even if you are not a runner). It is 100% worth paying more for, I promise!
I admit I was wrong.
Do you eat grass-fed beef? What is something you have been very wrong about?
I couldn’t agree more! One big benefit of living out here in the country is we also have local farms where we can get our meat. My BIL bought a whole cow last winter and stored a lot of in the freezer. We’re thinking of doing the same this summer because we love to cookout! Great post Tina.
Yes! Love this, I’m a huge fan of grass fed and finished beef!
I don’t really eat much (any?) beef. While I do know the benefits of eating grass-fed beef, I have to admit that I don’t always pay attention to it. I’ll not it on a menu if we’re eating out but otherwise don’t. It is so important to pay attention to what we’re putting in our bodies. Thanks for this great post Tina!
I am all about grass fed beef. Not only do I think that it is a better product, but I had a grandmother who died of Mad Cow Disease, so it is a bit of a sticking point for me!
As a vegetarian I really didn’t know all of that. I do however buy lots of meat for my family so interesting info for sure.
TOTALLY AGREE. I would rather not eat meat then eat something that had been fed chicken parts (ew). I don’t really eat beef a lot… sometimes when I’m out and they mention it is grass-fed, etc. etc. Luckily that’s pretty easy to get in SF! And I ONLY buy animal protein at Whole Foods or straight from the Farmers at the Farmers Market – you should know where your food comes from! (insert Portlandia joke about happy chickens)
I didn’t eat much beef in Indiana because it was so hard to find good, local, grass-fed beef. It made me so happy on our trip out to Seattle that we saw farm with cows grazing on grass and roaming free in the pastures! Great post – I really appreciate all the research you put into it!
Totally agree. I finally convinced my husband to get over the cost and we are very happy that we did. It even tastes soooo much better!
I’m all about grass fed! I know it costs more, but better to pay more now and be in better health. Plus we are supporting healthy cows! Great post!
I don’t eat a whole lot of red meat, but during the summer, a burger off the grill can be the only thing I want. We buy are lucky to have a ton of local farms/farmer markets to buy from and a local grocery store just started selling grass fed too. It’s more expensive but definitely more flavor.
I’m right there with you!! We buy a side of beef (we started with 1/4 and now our boys are BIG so….) every year which makes me happy because I know exactly where my beef comes from and how it was raised.
We definitely have a problem in this country with our food supply. Knowing your farmer and how the food is being produced is so important as is humane animal treatment. Great post! We definitely love grass fed beef!